Biting and stinging pests: Forget the flyswatter

Apr. 27, 2013 @ 07:05 PM

 

While warmer temperatures bring many pleasures, they also bring a few nuisances. Our beloved southern state is plagued by various biting and stinging pests that can turn an outdoor activity into unpleasantness, or even misery.

In the stinging category, we have the much-loathed yellow jacket. Where they invade a cookout or picnic, the most useful strategy is to simply cover the food and drinks. Their nests, often discovered later in the summer, are usually built in the ground, perhaps under a shrub.

When the nest location poses a hazard to mowing or pedestrians, they are easily dispatched with an aerosol wasp and hornet spray. These products spray a long stream so the applicator can stand some distance away. The application is most effective near dusk, when most of the colony has returned to the nest. Trying to kill them (or any other insect) with gasoline is wasteful, environmentally harmful and dangerous.

Other hornet species merit the same approach: treat the nest if located where it presents a hazard. Otherwise, it’s best to simply tolerate the occasional lone visitor. Also note that we have numerous bee species that form solitary nests in the ground. These types of bees are non-aggressive, beneficial as pollinators, and tend to stay around for only a few days. Tolerance is in order.

The red imported fire ant is now firmly established in our area. Like yellow jackets, they have an aggressive nest-defending instinct and will attack en-masse when their home is disturbed. Fire ants are smallish ants, dark brown in color. When a mound is discovered, there are numerous effective pesticide choices, including baits, mound drenches and a dust formulation.

Note that baits work slowly and must be applied in the right temperature and moisture conditions. Mound drench products work instantly. Mix with water in a watering can, and then sprinkle over the mound. Dust formulations are sprinkled over the mound and then the ants track it into the mound. Regardless of the treatment measure chosen, continued vigilance and follow-up treatments as needed are recommended.

The first step in tick management is to keep weeds and brush mowed down. When visiting tick-infested areas, the skin-applied repellants provide some protection. There are also stronger products that are applied to clothes and boots only (and allowed to dry before wearing). Typically, the ticks hitch a ride on your ankles and lower legs as you pass through tall weeds, so that’s where to focus your repellant applications. For youngsters, pay extra attention to the directions. If all of the above is insufficient, then spraying the lawn may be advisable. Since ticks can transmit certain diseases, a thorough “tick-check” is in order after outdoor activities.

I’d be remiss to leave mosquitoes off this list of reviled critters, doubly so since they can transmit West Nile virus. Avoid their bites by staying inside around twilight, and using skin-applied repellants as needed. Citronella candles can provide some relief if winds are calm, and outdoor foggers can help keep them away for a few hours, such as during the backyard barbecue. Most importantly, scout your yard and neighborhood for any source of standing water where they can breed.

As always, I’ll remind you of the importance of thoroughly reading the instructions of any pesticides you plan to use. For more information, give me a call or visit go.ncsu.edu/badbugs.